There's less to this robots will steal all our jobs story than you might think


We've another of those spine chilling warnings that the robots are going to come and steal all our jobs:

From self-driving cars to carebots for elderly people, rapid advances in technology have long represented a potential threat to many jobs normally performed by people.

But experts now believe that almost 50 per cent of occupations existing today will be completely redundant by 2025 as artificial intelligence continues to transform businesses.

A revolutionary shift in the way workplaces operate is expected to take place over the next 10 to 15 years, which could put some people's livelihoods at risk.

Customer work, process work and vast swatches of middle management will simply 'disappear', according to a new report by consulting firm CBRE and China-based Genesis.

We could all get very worried and ponder what it is that people might do. Alternatively we could be sensible and give the correct answer: something else. And even if that something else is something that isn't currently thought of as a "job" that doesn't matter one whit.

For we don't actually care whether someone, anyone, has a job. We don't, really, care whether they have an income either. What we do care about is that everyone has the opportunity to consume. And if the robots are off making everything then obviously there's lots to consume. So we've not got a basic nor an insurmountable problem here. All that's necessary is some system of getting what is produced into the hands of someone who can consume it.

And oddly enough we've got that system, that market for labour. We've had it for many centuries. The idea that someone might make a living as a writer of books (as opposed to a court funded artiste) would have been ridiculously exotic a few centuries back. The idea that a sprinter might make a living from sprinting was near illegal only 50 years ago. The idea that someone can make a living as a free market diversity adviser (they're not all tax funded) still seems pretty exotic to us frankly.

As has happened before, as has been happening for centuries, as the machines take over the much spreading then the muck spreaders go off to do something else. Usually, something a little less smelly and more enjoyable for a human being to do.

And there's one more observation we should make here. 50% of the jobs are going to disappear in 15 years? Pah! Lightweights.

For people always forget about "jobs churn". The economy destroys some 10% (for the UK, 3 million) jobs each year. Unemployment doesn't rocker by that amount because the economy also, roughly you understand, creates 3 million jobs each year. Those that disappear might appear to be the same as those that are created but they're almost always not quite. The move from one job to another always involves a subtle shift in what is being done. And continual subtle shifts in the flow of jobs move the stock of jobs along at a fair old clip.

We already expect some 150% of jobs extant in this current economy to explode, disappear, and be recreated as slightly different ones over the next 15 years. Whether this 50% is included in that figure or on top of it it's not the revolution some are predicting: it's just an addition to hte normal workings of the economy.